Child custody battles between divorcing parents can be emotionally charged and stressful. When child custody disputes cannot be agreed upon by the parents, a judge must step in and decide what is best for the child. The Best Interest of the Child Standard gives children in Maryland a voice when parents cannot amicably agree on who will have primary custody, or how joint custody arrangements or visitation orders are established.
Factors to Consider with a Child’s Preference
When child custody agreements are turned over to the court, the presiding judge has many factors to consider before deciding where the child will live and what visitation rights the non-custodial parent will be granted. Child custody laws vary from state to state, but judges will typically consider the following:
- The type of relationship the child has with each parent.
- Each parent’s ability to provide food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and a safe, stable environment for the child.
- If the child or parent has developmental, physical, or mental issues.
- The available educational opportunities and stability offered by each parent’s community.
- How cooperative and collaborative each spouse will be in their ongoing partnership to parent their child.
- If the parents present addiction, domestic violence, or anger management issues.
- Consideration will be given to each parent’s wishes for custody.
- Child preferences will be considered according to the child’s age and maturity.
Maryland law allows the preferences of children to be considered, so long as the judge deems them mature enough to fully understand how living with one parent will benefit them more than another. It is however highly unusual for judge’s to want to hear from the children. Careful attention is given to the reasons a child expresses a desire to live with a parent. If the judge thinks the child wants to live with their mother because she gives them more freedom to choose their friends and bedtime schedules, then the child’s preference may not carry much weight in their decision. However, if the child prefers to live with their mother because they do not want to leave their current school, or be far away from other friends and relatives, the child’s preference may be considered in the judge’s ultimate decision.
Child Testimony in Court
Many parents fear that their child will be traumatized if they are asked to testify and state their parental preferences in court. In most cases, children are not asked to testify in the courtroom. There are many different approaches to entering a child’s preference before a judge. The two most common are a custody evaluation and a best interest attorney. In a custody evaluation, a disinterested social worker will meet with the child as well as the parties, and recommend custody based on these meetings. A best interest attorney is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the child and his/her best interest at trial. A child will sometimes meet with the judge privately to avoid the stress of the courtroom.
Towson Child Custody Lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC Help Parents Reach Amicable Child Custody Agreements
If you are a parent in need of legal counsel or representation in a child custody dispute, call the Towson child custody lawyers at Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC at 443-589-0150, or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. With offices in Hunt Valley and Towson, Maryland, we serve clients in Baltimore, Baltimore County, Bel Air, Columbia, Westminster, Essex, Monkton, Sparks, Parkton, Carroll County, Harford County, and Howard County.